Weeknotes #277

This week I did:

Planning work for next year

I started doing some solution planning work for the next few months. It will hopefully bring together the strands of work that we’ve been building more recently. It’s like the plot reveals in a detective story where we can start to see why that decision was made back then and why we wanted to do this other thing that way.

More irregularites

Sent my third Irregular Ideas newsletter and got my fourth subscriber, but still have no clue about solving the feedback loop problem. The newsletter is supposed to be about sparking ideas together, but maybe my ideas don’t connect with other people’s, or maybe most people aren’t interested in ideas as a unit of value in the way I am. Maybe it needs a lot more subscribers and then a call-to-action to ascertain whether it’s solving that problem, but I think it’s probably just too amorphous a problem to measure in that way.

Human relationships

I caught a bit of the talk Andy Tabberer did called ‘Human side of delivery: forging relationships & building trust in a remote world’. It was good to learn a bit more about delivery management from the people side rather than practices. In a very simplistic and tactical way I’ve always seen delivery management as being about removing barriers for developers but I found the idea of ‘team health’ interesting and it made me think about what that might mean in different team contexts.

Future charity DAO

I’ve started doing a bit of research into how a DAO could be set up to run as a charity. There’s a lot to think about (that’s an understatement). There are barriers such as DAO’s aren’t a legal entity, and they rely on being able to codify the rules of the organisation, which is difficult when charity law is so messy. But there is also lots of interesting potential to explore for how each of the functions of charity might work in a tokenised system.

And I thought about:

Teams interfacing

I’ve been thinking about how difficult it is to conceive of and describe how different teams within the same organisation interface with each other. I think there’s a difference between teams interfacing with other teams and functions affecting teams, so for example the HR team manages the payroll function, but they aren’t interfacing with any other team as part of their work, payroll happens for all teams equally and so without any particular affect. Interfacing affects all those that interface. Some teams have clearly defined roles, responsibilities and practices, and I wonder if when they interface with teams that are less well defined, that their ‘harder’ boundary is more likely to push the more flexible team out of shape. How teams interface, and the shifting interplay of that interface, could be a systemic cause of friction or lubrication. How well teams understand their place in the organisational systems, however implicit that understanding (because it’s not as easy to depict as an org chart) must also be important for working effectively. It isn’t as simple as saying, ‘this team’s role is to do x’, because that speaks of the team in isolation and not in relation to other teams. Maybe value chain mapping could help to see where and why teams interact, even if not quite how.

Flywheel business models interacting with each other

The usual flywheel business models, as described by the uber napkin drawing, show how different aspects of a business drive others and that growth comes from increasing the throughput of the flywheel. But that are always shown as closed systems, in isolation from any other systems they might interact with. I’ve been wondering if multiple flywheel business models might interact with each other in an eco-system of business models. The difference between flywheel and linear business models is that flywheels feedback into themselves whereas linear takes an input, processes it and outputs something of value. I haven’t yet thought of an example of flywheels interact, either to drive to flywheel or slow it, but I’ll keep thinking about it.

Second-order personas

I’m still thinking quite a lot about what systems-shifting product management might look like. One of the ideas I’m playing with to shift the focus off user-centred design and to achieve outcomes by causing changes in systems is to affect the people who affect people, or, to put it another way, work on second order personas. For example, if you wanted to improve the experience someone with disabilities has when interviewing for a job, you can provide them means for overcoming barriers (first-order persona) or you could provide employers (second-order personas) with the means to remove barriers and so change a part of the system.

Spectrum of approaches to problems

I’ve been thinking for a few weeks now about the two opposite ways of approaching problems; engineering thinking, which solves known problems with upfront design and results in repeatable solutions, and design thinking, which solves less certain problems by uncovering the way forward step-by-step and results in more unique solutions. In thinking about critiques of these approaches it occurred to me that the design thinking approach could be seen as ‘throwing mud at the wall to see what sticks’. It then occurred to me that uncoordinated haphazard attempts to solve problems might actually be an entirely different approach, which then places all three on a spectrum from unplanned to planned with the design thinking approach somewhere in the middle.

And this week I read:

World Building

World Building is about story-telling. But it’s about more than that. It’s about how everything connects with a purpose in a coherent way to create the story that exists when it isn’t being told. This is an inspiring idea. In thinking about a portfolio of products all centred around similar problems and users, the world we build shows all who enter it how things are now, where we’re going, and why it’s the right place to go.

Trojan mice

On the theme of lots of small solutions being better for approaching complex problems than big single solutions, What’s the pont’s post about Trojan Mice as safe-to-fail probes into complex situations to gather data and make sense, is really interesting. I’m not sure I fully understand what the post is saying as it seems to be talking about replacing Trojan Horse projects with Trojan mice, but they serve very different purposes and so couldn’t be direct replacements, but it’s useful to think about how we might send . And to throw in another thought, clockwork mice behave in predictable ways but might collide in interesting and unexpected ways. Something to consider for multiple safe-to-fail probes.

The narrative on charity overhead

This is an interesting post about charities position on the narrative about the overhead costs charity’s have on many levels. I wonder where justifying low percentage of overhead as a good thing started. Was it in response to a genuine problem or hype and moral panic? As the post says, those charities that spend most of their money on what would be considered overhead, because of the type of work they do, become disadvantaged by that narrative pushed by the charities that don’t spend in that way. The specifics of overhead aside, it raises interesting questions about where charities draw the line in being competitive or collaborative. In what circumstances is it ok for a charity to do what’s best for itself rather than what might be good for the sector? And when should a single charity disregard it’s own best interests in favour of the sector benefiting more generally? If a charity makes a choice that results in it having less funding and so being less able to achieve its objectives, isn’t that bad for the sector as a whole? It’s a complex issue.

My growth area this week:

Recognising the ask

I’ve been thinking about ways in which we ask for help when we don’t know how to ask for help, or don’t realise that we want help. Maybe it relies on other people recognising changes in behaviour, but sometimes there just isn’t any way to help.